December 17, 2008: The Clinton Foundation’s donor list includes foreign governments as well as business leaders.

Clinton pays an official visit to King Abdullah, in Saudi Arabia, on March 30, 2012. (Credit: Reuters)

Clinton pays an official visit to King Abdullah, in Saudi Arabia, on March 30, 2012. (Credit: Reuters)

Since it began in 1997, the Clinton Foundation had never revealed who its donors were, as it is not legally required to do so. But on this day, with conflict of interest an increasing issue due to Hillary Clinton about to become President Obama’s secretary of state, the foundation releases its list of donors for the first time. Over 200,000 people and entities gave over $500 million to the foundation since it was created. Some of these donations do show conflict of interest concerns, especially in relation to Hillary’s new secretary of state role.

In 2015, the Washington Post will report that the 2008 list of donors “included foreign governments, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which could ask the State Department to take their side in international arguments. And it included a variety of other figures who might benefit from a relationship—or the appearance of a relationship—with the secretary. A businessman close to the ruler of Nigeria. Blackwater Training Center, a controversial military contractor. And dozens of powerful American business leaders, including some prominent conservatives, such as Rupert Murdoch.” Additionally, “It appeared that some wealthy donors—who traveled with [Bill] Clinton or attended his events—also had made valuable business connections at the same time.” For instance, Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra “attended Clinton-related events and met the leaders of Kazakhstan and Colombia, countries where he would later make significant business deals.” (The Washington Post, 6/2/2015) (The New York Times, 12/18/2008)

Former US Treasury Department official Matthew Levitt says donations from “countries where [the US has] particularly sensitive issues and relations” will invariably raise conflict of interest concerns. “The real question is to what extent you can really separate the activities and influence of any husband and wife, and certainly a husband and wife team that is such a powerhouse.”

Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson says the disclosure of donors should ensure that there would be “not even the appearance of a conflict of interest.” (The New York Times, 12/18/2008)

January 15, 2009: The Clinton Foundation releases its list of donors for the first time.

Victor Dahdaleh (Credit: Leon Neal / Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

Victor Dahdaleh (Credit: Leon Neal / Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

The foundation is not legally obliged to do so, but there is political pressure, with this being the first day of Hillary Clinton’s Senate confirmation hearing for her to become the next secretary of state.

The list shows that over 200,000 donors gave at least $492 million dollars since the foundation was founded in 1997. Exact contribution amounts are unknown because the list only gives ranges. At least $46 million comes directly from foreign governments such as Saudi Arabia. The foundation promises to reveal all future donors on a yearly basis, and new foreign government donations will be scrutinized by “government ethics officers.” Some donations come from sources that could lead to controversy or conflicts of interest.

For instance, the Blackwater security firm donated between $10,001 to $25,000. The Associated Press notes the company is “at risk of losing its lucrative government contract to protect US diplomats in Iraq.”

The Internet company Yahoo, as well as its top executives Jerry Yang, Frank Biondi, and Terry Semel donated as well. The Associated Press comments that the company has been “involved in disputes over surrendering Internet information to Chinese authorities that led to the imprisonment of dissidents there.”

Also, Victor Dahdaleh gave between $1 million to $5 million. He is a Canadian investor involved in aluminum production. He has been sued for fraud and bribery by a Bahrain aluminum company, and the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation about it. (The Associated Press, 1/18/2009) Dahdaleh will be acquitted in the legal case in 2013. But he will be implicated in a different financial scandal in 2016. (Yahoo Finance, 5/25/2016)

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: The Clinton Foundation refuses any significant increases in donations from foreign governments while Clinton is secretary of state, but individuals with direct ties to foreign governments do increase their giving.

Clinton (center left) meets Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal (center right) upon her arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on February 15, 2010. (Credit: Reuters / Saudi Press Agency)

Clinton (center left) meets Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal (center right) upon her arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on February 15, 2010. (Credit: Reuters / Saudi Press Agency)

For instance, although the Saudi government doesn’t donate money to the foundation during this time, but prominent Saudis, including members of the Saudi royal family, do give millions. About a dozen foreign individuals and the foundations and companies they control collectively give between $34 million and $68 million during Clinton’s tenure. Another $60 million goes to charitable projects sponsored by the foundation. (The Wall Street Journal, 3/19/2015)

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: During Clinton’s four years as secretary of state, the State Department dramatically increases the sale of military weapons to countries that are large donors to the Clinton Foundation.

Huma Abedin and Clinton on their way to meet with Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in June 2011. (Credit: The Associated Press)

Huma Abedin and Clinton on their way to meet with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in June 2011. (Credit: The Associated Press)

The department has to authorize all such sales, and can turn them down for a variety of reasons, such as documented human rights abuses in those countries. But the department authorizes $151 billion in military sales to the 16 countries that are large donors to the foundation, a 143% increase to those nations compared to the last four years of the Bush administration.

By comparison, military sales to all countries, including those countries, increase 80% during the same time period. US defense contractors also donate heavily to the Clinton Foundation during this time, as well as paying for speeches given by Bill Clinton.

Many countries the State Department approves for these sales are also criticized by the department for various problems such as corruption, political repression, and poor cooperation on terrorism. Such countries include Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. The 16 large donor countries give between $54 million and $141 million combined to the Clinton Foundation during this time, as well as paying big speaking fees to Bill Clinton.

Meredith McGehee, policy director at the non-profit Campaign Legal Center, will later say, “The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation. This shows why having public officials, or even spouses of public officials, connected with these non-profits is problematic.”

Gregory Suchan, who was a State Department official for over 30 years, will say that while foreign governments and defense contractors may not have made donations to the foundation exclusively to influence weapons sales, they were clearly “looking to build up deposits in the ‘favor bank’ and to be well thought of.” (The International Business Times, 5/26/2015)

January 21, 2009—2014: While secretary of state, Clinton supports international business deals that benefit Boeing, a US-based airplane manufacturing company.

A $30 billion agreement was made on December 30, 2010, to sell advanced F-15SA Strike Eagle fighter jets (pictured) to Saudi Arabia. (Credit: The Wall Street Journal)

A $30 billion agreement was made on December 30, 2010, to sell advanced F-15SA Strike Eagle fighter jets (pictured) to Saudi Arabia. (Credit: The Wall Street Journal)

Meanwhile, Boeing and the foreign countries involved in the deals donate to the Clinton Foundation and pay for speeches given by Bill Clinton.

  • In early 2009, Clinton begins working with Boeing to open up new business in Russia. Later in the year, Clinton visits Russia and makes what she describes as a “shameless pitch” to a Russian airline to buy Boeing passenger jets. In 2010, Boeing gets the deal, selling 50 jets worth $3.7 billion.
  • In 2009, China is preparing to host the 2010 world’s fair. However, it seems the US exhibit promoting US businesses will have to be cancelled, since the private fundraising efforts are going poorly. A State Department official warns that there likely will be “extremely widespread” consequences to both diplomatic and commercial interests if the US effort fails. Emails show that Clinton and other State Department officials push Boeing and other US companies to donate, and Boeing eventually gives $2 million, helping make the exhibit a success. US exposition organizer Nick Winslow will later say that he didn’t feel any political pressure, but, “Knowing that it was important to the State Department, did that help? Of course it did.”
  • In August 2010, Boeing donates $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation to support education projects in Haiti.
  • In February 2011, Boeing wins a $35 billion tanker-refueling contract for the US Air Force. Clinton had supported the bid. When she hears Boeing won, she writes in an email, “I’m pleased.”
  • In 2011, the State Department approves a series of weapons deals between Boeing and the government of Kuwait. For instance, Boeing is the prime contractor in a $690 million deal to give Kuwait military transport planes.
  • Later in 2011, Bill Clinton is paid $175,000 by the Kuwait America Foundation for a speech. Boeing is a sponsor of the event. Kuwait also continues to donate millions to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary is secretary of state.
  • In late 2011, Clinton’s State Department approves an enormous weapons deal for Saudi Arabia. A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing will deliver $30 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to that country, including 84 new F-15 fighter jets built by Boeing. The deal takes place despite strong opposition from Israel, as well as concerns about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and lack of democracy. But according to a State Department official, Clinton made the deal a personal “top priority.”
  • Saudi Arabia is prohibited from donating money to the Clinton Foundation during her time as secretary of state as part of a deal Clinton signed with the White House in 2008. But in previous years, the Saudi government gave at least $10 million to foundation. Additionally, private Saudi citizens and Saudi royals give millions to the foundation while she is in office. Then the Saudi government resumes donating to the foundation after she leaves office.
  • Boeing International President Shephard Hill (left) speaks alongside Hillary Clinton in Shanghai, China, on May 22, 2010. (Credit: Getty Images)

    Boeing International President Shephard Hill (left) speaks alongside Hillary Clinton in Shanghai, China, on May 22, 2010. (Credit: Getty Images)

    In early 2012, the State Department helps Boeing secure major deals in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

  • In July 2012, Boeing pays Bill Clinton $250,000 for a speech.
  • In September 2012, Bill Clinton gives another speech sponsored by Boeing. He is paid $200,000.
  • In 2013, Boeing sponsored an event in St. Louis called Clinton Global Initiative University. It’s not clear how much Boeing donates, but it gives between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, and the event is part of the foundation’s work.

Lisa Gilbert, of the government integrity watchdog group Public Citizen, will later say that what the Clintons were doing likely was not illegal. However, it seems “unsavory.” (The Seattle Times, 3/21/2016Similar patterns can be seen with other US weapons manufacturers, like Lockheed, and other foreign governments, like Oman and Qatar. Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics, will later say, “These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment. Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?” (The International Business Times, 5/26/2015)

March 13, 2011—March 14, 2011: An email chain shows that Clinton is far from the only US official emailing obviously classified information.

Jeffrey D. Feltman (Credit: Patrick Tsui / FCO)

Jeffrey D. Feltman (Credit: Patrick Tsui / FCO)

On March 13, 2011, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey D. Feltman writes in an urgent email that Saudi Arabia and The United Arab Emirates are sending troops into the neighboring country of Bahrain to quash anti-government protests there. The email is sent to more than 20 other US officials, and then replied to and forwarded ten times in the next 24 hours. Recipients include Clinton, US Ambassador to Kuwait Deborah Jones, Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, and US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

Feltman’s original email and some of the replies contain information later deemed classified. However, many of the emails in the chain are sent through the State Department’s unclassified system, state.gov, nicknamed “the low side,” instead of the department’s system for classified information, nicknamed “the high side.” Clinton’s private server is considered even less secure than “the low side.”

The New York Times will later report on the email chain to illustrate how widespread the emailing of obviously classified information through improper channels had become during this time period. (The New York Times, 5/10/2016) (US Department of State, 2/29/2016)

March 30, 2012—March 31, 2012: Clinton’s BlackBerry emails could be intercepted by Saudi Arabia while she visits that country.

Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, Ambassador to the Clinton meets with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia on March 30, 2012. (Credit: US Embassy Riyadh)

Clinton meets with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia on March 30, 2012. (Credit: US Embassy Riyadh)

Clinton travels to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from March 30 to 31, 2012. (US Department of State, 3/30/2012)

This is notable because a September 2016 FBI report will reveal that Clinton regularly used her unsecure BlackBerry while outside the US, including sending and/or receiving “hundreds” of emails containing classified information. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Furthermore, in August 2010, it was reported that Research in Motion (RIM), the company that makes BlackBerrys, agreed to locate three computer servers within Saudi Arabia, “putting them under the jurisdiction of local security forces,” according to an article at the time by the Register.

Headquarters of Research In Motion (RIM) located in Waterloo, Ontario (Credit: public domain)

Headquarters of Research In Motion (RIM) located in Waterloo, Ontario (Credit: public domain)

The effective result is that the Saudi government was able to intercept emails that have to briefly pass through the servers. RIM did not want to agree to this, but the Saudi government briefly suspended BlackBerry service until RIM gave in. Even emails sent through Saudi Arabia using personal encryption keys could be easily intercepted due to this agreement. (The Register, 8/9/2010)

Clinton is sent emails virtually every day, and her days in Saudi Arabia are no exceptions. One email classified at the “confidential” level is sent to Clinton on March 31, 2012, though it’s not clear if she is in Saudi Arabia at the time or not. The email concerns politics in Sudan and South Sudan. (US Department of State, 1/29/2016)

 

April 16, 2012: The government of Qatar promises $1 million to Bill Clinton, which could be a violation of the Clinton Foundation’s ethics violation with the Obama Administration.

Amitabh Desai (Credit: Social Miami)

Amitabh Desai (Credit: Social Miami)

Amitabh Desai, director of foreign policy for the Clinton Foundation, writes in an email to other foundation officials, that he met with Qatar’s ambassador to the US four days earlier, on April 12, 2012. The ambassador is Mohammed Bin Abdullah Bin Mutib Al Rumaihi, who just assumed that position several weeks earlier. (Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12/26/2013) (WikiLeaks, 10/13/2016)

He summarizes that Al Rumaihi “Would like to see WJC [former President William Jefferson Clinton] ‘for five minutes’ in NYC [New York City], to present $1 million check that Qatar promised for WJC’s birthday in 2011.”

The assistant to the Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdullah Bin Mutib Al-Rumaihi attends a foriegn ministers meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on March 9, 2015. Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi called for the creation of a unified Arab force to battle the spread of Islamic extremist groups.  AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMED EL-SHAHED        (Photo credit should read MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)

Qatar Ambassador Mohammed Bin Abdullah Bin Mutib Al-Rumaihi (Credit: Mohamed el-Shahed / Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

Additionally, “Qatar would welcome our suggestions for investments in Haiti – particularly on education and health. They have allocated most of their $20 million but are happy to consider projects we suggest. I’m collecting input from CF [Clinton Foundation] Haiti team.”

The email is sent to foundation officials Douglas Band, Justin Cooper, Bruce Lindsey, Laura Graham, and Clinton advisor John Podesta. (WikiLeaks, 10/13/2016)

Two years later, on August 19, 2014, Clinton will comment in an email: “[W]e need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” (ISIL is also known as the terrorist group ISIS.) (WikiLeaks, 10/13/2016)

On October 14, 2016, the day after this email is made public by WikiLeaks, Reuters will report that this donation, if it took place, could be a major ethics breach. The donation takes place while Hillary Clinton is secretary of state, and the Clinton Foundation made an agreement with the Obama administration not to accept any increases in donations by foreign governments during that time. The email doesn’t specify that the donation was accepted, or if it went to the foundation or to Bill Clinton personally. Foundation records indicate the Qatar government did give over $1 million, but it isn’t clear when. When asked by Reuters if the donation was accepted by the foundation, a foundation spokesperson will decline to say. (Reuters, 10/14/2016)

Shortly After February 1, 2013: The ethics agreement with the Clinton Foundation ends; donations from foreign governments increase.

Clinton at the main annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting, on September 22, 2014 in New York City. (Source: John Moore / Getty Images)

Clinton at the main annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting, on September 22, 2014 in New York City. (Source: John Moore / Getty Images)

As soon as Clinton’s term as secretary of state ends, the “memorandum of understanding” between the Clinton Foundation and the Obama White House also comes to an end. As a result, the Clinton Foundation resumes accepting increased donations from foreign governments. For instance, shortly after Clinton resigns, the foundation receives a $2 million donation from a conglomerate run by a member of China’s National People’s Congress.

The Wall Street Journal will report that news of such donations from foreign governments “prompted criticism from Republicans and some Democrats, who said it represented a conflict for a potential future president,” given the anticipation that Hillary Clinton would run for president again in 2016. (The Wall Street Journal, 3/19/2015

United Arab Emirates and Germany begin donating to the foundation for the first time, and other countries such as Saudi Arabia resume donating after holding off during Clinton’s time as secretary of state. (February 25, 2015)

May 15, 2015: The Clinton Foundation announces that it will place new limits on its fundraising activities.

In the wake of numerous critical news reports, and just days after Hillary Clinton announced her second presidential campaign, the foundation says that it will limit foreign government donations to six countries that have already funded Clinton Foundation programs: Britain, Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. Other countries that donated in the last year, including Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, are not included. The foundation also says it will suspend its future overseas conferences. (Politico, 4/15/2015)

The foundation placed voluntary limits on itself in 2008 shortly before Hillary became secretary of state, but those limits were secretly violated in a number of ways.

June 5, 2016: Sanders criticizes the Clinton Foundation.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is asked in an interview about the Clinton Foundation. He says, “If you ask me about the Clinton Foundation, do I have a problem when a sitting secretary of state and a foundation run by her husband collects many millions of dollars from foreign governments, many governments which are dictatorships? Yeah I do.” He points out the human rights violations of governments that have heavily donated to the foundation, such as Saudi Arabia. When asked if the foundation’s activities represent a potential conflict of interest, Sanders replies, “Yes, I do.” (Real Clear Politics, 6/5/2016)

Sanders had previously avoided criticizing the foundation. (Real Clear Politics, 4/8/2016)

June 8, 2016: Clinton claims the Clinton Foundation only made “one or two” disclosure mistakes.

Clinton interviewed by Anderson Cooper on June 8, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

Clinton interviewed by Anderson Cooper on June 8, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

CNN journalist Anderson Cooper asks Clinton, “[Republican presidential candidate Donald] Trump has said he is clearly going to focus on the Clinton Foundation. Last night he said the Russians, Saudis, Chinese all gave money to the foundation and got favorable treatment in return. The foundation has raised huge sums of money for worthy causes; it’s always not been transparent though. Tens of millions of dollars come from a Canadian partnership so that the donors could remain secret, [and] there was a large donation from Algeria not submitted to State Department for approval. If you are president, will your husband divest himself of any association with the foundation?”

Clinton replies, “We will cross that bridge if and when we come to it. Let me just try to set the record straight. We had absolutely overwhelming disclosure. Were there one or two instances that slipped through the cracks? Yes. But was the overwhelming amount of anything that anybody gave the foundation disclosed? Absolutely.”

When Cooper presses if Bill Clinton would step down from the foundation if Hillary is elected president, Hillary replies, “Again, I’m not going to consider anything until we see what the circumstances are.” (Real Clear Politics, 6/8/2016)